This extremely rare 1969 Camaro is documented as one of only twelve Pace Car convertibles equipped with the rare L89 aluminum-head 396/375 horsepower engine. Its complete matching-numbers drivetrain that includes a 400 Turbo-Hydramatic and 3.07 rear axle ratio indicate that it is likely one of seven examples sent to the 1969 Indianapolis 500 for back-up pace car duty.

Now with 28,341 original miles, it has received a careful and thoroughly documented frame-off, nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration that preserved as much originality as possible. All components, codes and VINs were photographed during the restoration for the car’s historical record, which includes the complete owner history, original trim tag, owner’s manual and showroom literature and certification by Camaro historian Jerry MacNeish.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 Chevrolet Camaro L89 Pace Car Convertible
Years Produced:1969
Number Produced:3,675 (all Pace Cars combined)
Original List Price:$5,148.50 (as equipped)
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Upper dash panel on the driver side
Engine Number Location:Pad on passenger side of engine forward of cylinder head
Club Info:American Camaro Association, Camaro Research Group
Alternatives:1967 Chevrolet Camaro Pace Car, 1970 Oldsmobile 442 W30 Convertible, 1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car

This car, Lot S189, sold for $153,700, including buyer’s premium, at the Mecum auction in Kissimmee, FL, on January 29, 2011.

In 1967, Chevrolet introduced the all-new Camaro into the Pony Car sales race. That same year, Chevrolet was chosen to supply the Courtesy and Pace Cars for the Indianapolis 500. The first-generation Camaro convertible was the obvious choice.

Two years later, Chevrolet once again partnered with the Indianapolis 500 for the 53rd Indy 500, held on May 30, 1969, to supply the Pace Cars, Courtesy and Festival cars. In fact, Chevrolet provided all of the track vehicles, including pickups, Suburbans and wagons. Once again, the Camaro would be selected, with a special edition built just for the race. These would become known as the Z11 Pace Cars.

According to various sources, 43 Festival Pace Cars were supplied, all powered by the 350-ci engine coupled with an automatic transmission. No 4-speed Festival Pace Cars were supplied, due to the presumption that a mishap with a slipped clutch by a non-skilled driver could propel the car quickly into a crowd or stationary object.

Seven Pace Car replicas were provided for Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials, and five other replicas were for USAC officials. An additional 75 cars were designated as VIP and press cars, which are reported to be a mixture of 396-ci and 350-ci builds, including some 4-speed-equipped editions. Total Pace Car production for 1969 came to 3,675, which is widely accepted as the confirmed total build.

Losing their heads

Chevrolet delivered two original L89-equipped Pace Cars as the official track duty cars (primary and back-up). These two cars were then disassembled so that each mechanical component could be scrutinized for mechanical fitness. After all, it would be a marketing nightmare for a brand-new Camaro to fail while pacing the field at speeds nearing 130 mph. Both L89 Pace Cars, when reassembled, were fitted with stock iron heads—returning them to stock L78s—as they were deemed more reliable than the aluminum L89 heads. It has been suggested that one additional L89 Pace Car that kept its aluminum heads may have been delivered to the track.

As a side note, and simply to display my ability to bore folks with endless—and somewhat useless—knowledge, all L89 396 Chevrolet engines produced the exact same 375 horsepower as their iron-head counterparts. The advantage of an aluminum head was for saving weight. The L89 option added an additional $394.95 to the $316 L78 option, which was a big chunk of cash in 1969. The weight savings was deemed significant—but not when compared to cost, as only 311 folks ordered the Camaro with the L89 heads. This number includes all 1969 L89 Camaros combined, not just Pace Cars.

The fuzzy facts

While there are multiple sources of information regarding our subject car, it has been reported to me, again by a highly respected source, that there is no definitive number for the amount of L89 Pace Cars ever built, or the total amount trackside in 1969.

Our subject car was reported to be one of only seven L89 Pace Cars assembled as back-up cars, but other sources tell me that only three were present (including the two track-prepared cars). Further, there seems to be no definitive caucus that can agree on the total number of L89 Pace Cars built, period. So the claim that our subject car is of one of the twelve built remains a mystery, at least for this reporter—until documented proof becomes more readily available. Other notable sources claim as many as 34 L89 equipped Pace Cars were ordered. For the sake of argument, let’s simply agree that it’s not that many.

Enter Dr. John Mansell

A fellow by the name of Dr. John Mansell may solve part of the riddle presented before us. Dr. Mansell attended the 1969 Indy 500 Race, and for reasons unknown, recorded the VIN numbers of at least 55 Pace Cars present on the grounds.

His list of VIN numbers was eventually published in the United States Camaro Club magazine in 1992. The highest VIN number he recorded was 9N610726. He also noted that all of the Pace Cars present seemed to have been built in February of 1969. Our subject car, VIN sequence number 9N615360, indicates a March 1969 build. Further, the original window sticker shows a retail delivery to City Chevrolet in Charlotte, N.C.—and that’s pretty far from the Brickyard.

The purpose of this discussion is not to discredit the legitimacy of the car, but rather to dissect the claim of whether our subject car was actually one of the cars supplied, as the owner implies, as a back-up Pace Car present at the actual 1969 Indy 500 race. I would argue against that claim.

A genuine L89

Without any question, our subject car is well-documented as an original, numbers-matching, L89-equipped Pace Car. The original window sticker tell us that the car was built for retail delivery to a North Carolina Chevrolet dealer and it was delivered with the L78 396-ci engine (375 horsepower) along with the optional L89 aluminum heads.

Overall, the car is fully authenticated and documented with Day One owner history, original trim tag, owner’s manual and showroom literature. Camaro historian Jerry MacNeish, a respected authority, certified the authenticity of the car. As such, the new owner can sleep well knowing that this is, in fact, one of only a handful of genuine L89 Pace Cars extant. The 28,341 original miles serves as a nice bonus to further support the value.

Tracking the values

Looking through the SCM Platinum database, I pulled up only one close comparable car—we’ll use that term casually—which would be expected with such a small supply of original L89 Z11s. This comparable car was for Lot 247 from the Milton Robson Collection sale held on November 13, 2010 (SCM# 168403). This car, albeit an ordinary L78, sold for a staggering $187,000.

The other comparable car is Lot 733, from the Silver Auctions Reno, NV, sale on August 6, 2009 (SCM# 141409), which is another L78-equipped Z11 that sold for $86,400. This paints a pretty good picture of where this profile is headed.

A top-down analysis

Our subject car was in stellar condition. I attended the Mecum Kissimmee Auction and reported on the sale. Although I was not present when the car crossed the block, it did appear—upon a somewhat casual personal inspection—to have been the recipient of a thoughtful, and impressive restoration. The documentation was thorough and complete. Jerry MacNeish’s certification seemed to be more directed towards the the car being an authentic, original, numbers-matching L89 rather than a verification of the number of L89 Pace Cars delivered. Other documents simply added to the no-stories paperwork indicating that this was, in fact, a factory as-delivered L89 Pace Car, which is a very rare top-down muscle car.

While L78 models seem to trade in the $50,000 to $100,000 range for well-sorted 2 condition or higher examples, there is very little data to substantiate the sales range for L89s in today’s dollars. Because so few real cars were actually built, they rarely become available, especially fully documented examples such as our subject car.

To say this car was well bought would be akin to saying that the Green Bay Packers are a pretty darn good football team. The new owner acquired a fully sorted, documented, numbers-matching, airtight L89 1969 Pace Car.

The market seems to be gaining steam—rather rapidly—for exceptional cars. Well-heeled buyers are seeking quality assets to diversify their investments, and the best automobiles offer an optional asset class. Some investors now see top-notch cars much like an undervalued blue-chip stock that’s been beaten down. And that means some investors see certain automobiles as rich buying opportunities.

Provided the market continues its upward swing, it would not surprise me to see this car, or one nearly identical to it, surpass the $200,000 mark in the near future.

Comments are closed.